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Grand Rapids Griffins

Griffins Shake Up Staff, Will Not Renew Ben Simon’s Contract

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Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman said they would be infusing more depth for the Grand Rapids Griffins next season. They’ll also be looking for a new set of coaches.

The contracts of Ben Simon, Matt MacDonald, and Todd Krygier will not be renewed along with  goaltending development coach Brian Mahoney-Wilson. A few changes certainly were expected, but this was one full swoop for the Griffins, who failed to qualify for the Calder Cup playoffs for a second consecutive season.

Injuries in Detroit Didn’t Help Grand Rapids’ Case

The Red Wings did indeed take key players from Grand Rapids, starting with Jonatan Berggren in November. Berggren remained with Detroit for the remainder of the season, returning to the Griffins when Detroit was on a break.

In spite of injury and callups, though, the Griffins season certainly wasn’t what anyone thought it should have been. Yzerman put more of the blame of that on the front office, starting with himself and assistant GM Shawn Horcoff.

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“I look at Grand Rapids this year and ultimately it starts with our management team here in Detroit–myself, Shawn, our pro scouting staff – to put together a team that we think one,” Yzerman said.  “It is really important for the development of our players but also we want a winning environment. We didn’t put together a good enough team this year.”

Last season, Grand Rapids fell just short of a playoff spot but this season the Griffins struggled most of the season to stay afloat. The Griffins ended up 28-36-4-4, a last-place finish in the Central Division.  Only the Henderson Silver Knights were worse in terms of points with 63.

Though Yzerman cited depth on the ice, it appears the front office decided a new staff was in order, too.

New Griffins Coach to Be Competitive while Developing Talent, Especially Cossa’s

Opting to let four staff members walk, including a goaltending development coach, makes it likely that the largest focus for new staff will be Sebastian Cossa’s continued growth.

Yzerman was pleased with Cossa’s second half of the season, possibly providing a clue as to who Griffins general manager Shawn Horcoff may be targeting.

“I think he’s shown that he’s a good prospect,” Yzerman said of the 2021 15th overall pick. “Next year is he ready to play in the American League? I hope he is. Maybe he will be. Maybe he won’t. As long as he’s going in the right direction, that’s all I’m worried about.”

With this latest move, it sure seems likelier that Yzerman wants rather than hopes. The Red Wings may start looking in Toledo with a coaching staff that turned Cossa’s first half struggles into an after thought. Dan Watson has run a successful program in Toledo, and actually was the runner up to current Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde, who helmed the Walleye bench from 2014-2016. Watson’s 272-112-21-13 mark with the Walleye along with the staff’s work with Cossa may make him the front runner.

Might Detroit do what they did with Jeff Blashill back in 2012, shuttling him down to the Griffins where he would become the eventual Red Wings coach in 2015. Would Alex Tanguay be a potential choice there?

Regardless of what happens, it’s evident what is expected: improvement.

“I speak for the organization in saying we’re disappointed in the season that we had in Grand Rapids,” Yzerman said. “Having said that, myself and Shawn, we’re the ones that are responsible for it.”

They’re already working to fix it.

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